+++ AUDI chief executive Rupert Stadler reportedly faces a second internal interrogation amid reports pointing to another ‘defeat’ device that may have been discovered by US regulators. Volkswagen Group’s internal inquiry, orchestrated by outside law firm Jones Day, initially found no evidence that Stadler had been involved in or aware of the TDI emissions cheats at the center of the scandal that emerged last year. Recent reports in German newspapers suggest California’s Air Resources Board has uncovered evidence of an entirely different system, allegedly found in Audi vehicles, that is designed to deceive emissions testing equipment. The software is said to detect when the steering wheel is held straight, as it would be in a lab test, and activates special algorithms to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Unnamed sources now tell Reuters that Jones Day investigators plan to question Stadler a second time to determine if he is aware of any additional information related to the recent revelations surrounding an alleged second defeat device. “The lawyers are requesting further information”, one source said. US authorities have yet to officially comment on the matter. If the allegations are accurate, Volkswagen Group could face yet another round of lawsuits and civil or criminal penalties. +++

+++ While other car makers are beginning to concentrate most of their resources on developing electric powertrains, BMW is being criticized by its top labor chief for its lack of progress. According to Bloomberg, Manfred Schoch expressed a public sharp disapproval towards the company’s leadership, saying that BMW risks falling behind its rivals. “Management has been slow to decide on investing in more electric models. The carmaker must expand its range to include electric versions of its core lineup, including 3-, 5- and 7-Series sedans. Anything else would be detrimental to the business”, he said. Although BMW has 2 full-electric vehicles to its name and a third in the pipeline, the German car manufacturer doesn’t allocate its resources to battery development. Furthermore, the i5 isn’t expected to arrive on the market sooner than 2021 – at which point Audi, Porsche, Tesla and Volkswagen will have more than one state-of-the-art product in their line-up. Volkswagen, for instance, plans to introduce 30 battery-powered vehicles by 2020, while Mercedes plans at least 10 such models. “Management must invest in electric mobility now” to remain competitive in the future,” concluded Schoch. +++

+++ Automakers are urging President-elect Donald Trump to reconsider tough EMISSIONS and fuel economy regulation put into place by the Obama administration. This week the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers penned a letter to Trump’s White House transition team asking for relief from the Obama administration’s 2025 fuel economy and greenhouse gas rules. The group said it would be a “substantial challenge” for the industry to hit the requirements, which become more stringent starting with the 2017 model year. “We live at a moment where technology and change are swamping the regulatory capacity to manage our emerging reality. Reform is imperative”, Alliance CEO Mitch Bainwol said in the letter, obtained by Automotive News. The Alliance argues that the current emissions rules will require billions of dollars in investment from the automakers. The group didn’t stop there, suggesting that expensive safety systems should also be cut from mandates to keep overall costs lower. “As car prices rise, it becomes vital to look at the full cost of regulatory initiatives”, Bainwol said in the letter. “Well-meaning regulatory action risks increasing compliance costs to the point that additional safety and fuel-efficiency technologies put new vehicles out of financial reach of the average new car purchaser”. Bainwol’s letter suggests the creation of a “presidential advisory committee” that would allow automakers to form rules alongside agencies like the “EPA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Trade Commission, Federal Communications Commission, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and others”. Trump has not responded to the letter, but his reaction could be favorable. Trump believes that man-made climate change is a hoax and has already appointed Myron Ebell, a known climate change skeptic, to to lead his Environmental Protection Agency transition team. Ebell has also been tipped to lead the EPA when Trump takes office. Some environmental groups have already vowed to block any changes to the greenhouse gas rules. “If the Trump Administration seeks to roll back fuel efficiency standards, which are highly popular with the American people and even have been supported by the auto industry, it will find us standing in the way,” Luke Tonachel, director of the Clean Vehicles and Fuels Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an e-mail to Automotive News. +++

+++ LE ECO is currently facing financial difficulties due to their rapid expansion in various businesses, but what does this mean to the automotive industry? According to Bloomberg, Jia Yueting (LeEco’s CEO) apologized to shareholders and pledged to slash his income to 1 yuan (15 cents) in a letter sent to the company’s employees. “No company has had such an experience, a simultaneous time in ice and fire. We blindly sped ahead, and our cash demand ballooned. We got over-extended in our global strategy. At the same time, our capital and resources were in fact limited”, Jia wrote. But why is this information so important, you might ask? Well, for starters, the entrepreneur’s main venture (LeEco) acts as an umbrella company for a number of businesses, including LeEco’s automobile division, Faraday Future, and other partnerships associated with them. The fact that LeEco is running out of cash could mean the delay (or worse) of its own LeSee autonomous vehicle, Faraday Future’s upcoming all-electric model, and even Aston Martin’s RapidE model, which began development earlier this year. Regulatory finding show that Jia’s empire relies on a “risky financial model”, as the Chinese billionaire is using his original, successful business, Leshi (the equivalent of Netflix), as a launching ramp for his other companies. To make matters worse, Leshi’s stock has plummeted by almost a third since the start of 2016. Moreover, in his memo, Jia accuses the car division for the reckless spending, saying it already devoured 10 billion yuan ($1,5 billion) in early development. By the looks of it, the future looks bleak, but it’s not over until the fat lady sings. +++

+++ There’s little doubt that BMW upset purists when they decided to launch the 2-Series Active Tourer, which was eventually followed by the Grand Tourer. And this was for a very good reason, as both of them are using the UKL front-wheel drive platform that underpins the latest X1 and some Mini models as well. This decision has been seen as a sacrilege by some fans of the German car company, but the bet to go down the FWD road eventually paid off, as the 2 compact MPV s were the third-best selling in their segment, from January to September, this year. According to a report published by AutoNews, citing data compiled by JatoDynamics, the German manufacturer managed to move 77,644 of them in the European Union and EFTA (Europe Free Trade Association). The 2-Series was only topped by the Citroen C4 Picasso and Grand Picasso, with 85,390 units, and by the Volkswagen Touran, which is the segment leader, with 88,169 examples delivered. Fourth place is held by Ford, with their C-Max and Grand C-Max, which accounted for 64,016 units, followed in fifth position by BMW’s premium rival, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class, which was chosen by 56,325 buyers. +++

+++ With his own company transitioning from a chip maker to an “AI firm”, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang went on record saying some very positive things about TESLA ’s Autopilot system. The Nvidia boss stated that the automaker “sent a shock wave through the automotive industry” since introducing the necessary hardware for fully autonomous driving. Huang went on to add that the system is “basically five years ahead. Anybody who’s talking about 2021… that’s just a non-starter anymore. And I think that’s probably the most significant bit in the automotive industry. I just don’t – anybody who is talking about autonomous capabilities in 2020 and 2021 is at the moment re-evaluating in a very significant way”. According to Huang, autonomous driving is not a “detection problem” but an “AI problem”, which he thinks will be solved as early as next year, mainly thanks to Nvidia’s Drive PX 2 supercomputer. When asked why Tesla decided to use his company’s technology for their second generation Autopilot instead of Mobileye’s, Huang stated that Nvidia’s GPU platform is better and more efficient for AI, and that it’s scalable with OTA updates for building an autonomous fleet service. According to Electrek, if Tesla does manage to offer fully autonomous driving in 2017 thanks to the Drive PX 2, it’s possible that the rest of the auto industry would also turn to Nvidia’s tech solutions. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN is set to expand its Golf line-up next year with a new crossover-style SUV model influenced by the T-Roc concept. The new high-riding Golf-based model is set to make its debut in lightly veiled concept form at the Geneva motor show next March, prior to the unveiling of a definitive production version during the second half of 2017, according to Wolfsburg officials. The new high riding model will slot into the Volkswagen line-up underneath the second-generation Tiguan. Earlier reports suggested the new Volkswagen SUV would eschew the T-Roc badge for a more conventional name. Copyright documents reveal Volkswagen has registered alternative names, including Teracor, but Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess has now confirmed a decision has been made to retain the T-Roc name for production. Unlike the original targa roof-touting T-Roc concept revealed in 2014, the production version of Volkswagen’s latest SUV is planned to receive a fixed roof and five-door hatchback layout similar to that of its more conventional Golf siblings. While adopting typical Volkswagen styling elements, the new SUV will sport a uniquely styled steel body, according to factory sources. In concept car, the T-Roc measures 4.178 mm long, 1.831 mm wide and 1.501 mm high; dimensions it is expected to retain in production guise. By comparison, the second-generation Tiguan stretches to 4.486 mm long, 1.839 mm wide and 1.632 mm high. Like the Golf and Tiguan, the T-Roc is based on Volkswagen’s versatile MQB platform. It is expected to come with a wheelbase similar to that of the Golf at 2.640 mm, or 41 mm shorter than the Tiguan’s. Inside, the production T-Roc is set to adopt the same dashboard and features as the newly unveiled facelifted 7th-generation Golf, complete with an optional high-definition Active Info Display instrument pack and 9.2-inch infotainment monitor supporting touch, speech and gesture control. Among the engines set to power the new Volkswagen is the company’s turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine with 1135 hp as well as the new turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder TSI Evo units unveiled in the facelifted Golf in 130 hp and 150 hp guises. Also planned is a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that will provide the basis for T-Roc GTI with up to 245 hp. The diesel line-up will included updated versions of Volkswagen’s 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines, which Diess describes as being “cleaner than most from rival manufacturers”. Alongside front-wheel drive, selected T-Roc models are also planned to offer four-wheel drive, either as an option or as standard. Gearboxes will include a standard 6-speed manual and optional 7-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic. Also under development are plug-in hybrid and pure-electric versions in respective T-Roc GTE and e-T-Roc models. They are planned to share their drivelines with the Golf GTE and e-Golf, the latter of which adopts a larger battery for 2017 in a move claimed to provide it with a range of up to 300 kilometers. The T-Roc is one of three new SUVs to be added to the Volkswagen line-up before the end of 2019. The larger Atlas, which is reserved primarily for the US and Chinese markets, made its debut late last month. An even smaller model, previewed by the T-Breeze concept at this year’s Geneva motor show, is planned to go into production by 2019. +++

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